The crowd at Victoria’s Royal Theatre was treated to a night of grace and grandeur by Canada’s own Andy Shauf with support from Katy Kirby. On tour for his most recent release, Norm, Shauf awed the eager crowd in his characteristically humble yet über talented fashion.
Katy Kirby opened the evening with a solo set, treating the crowd to a stripped-down run through of her 2021 album Cool Dry Place. Standing alone with guitar in hand and a spotlight guiding the audience’s gaze, the singer-songwriter’s voice and presence filled the cavernous theatre. Kirby’s wit and comfort on stage shined through when a (benevolent, let’s say) heckler strongly requested she play “Traffic!” Instead of shutting down what some people sitting around this reviewer saw as brash (borderline rude) behaviour, Kirby took it in stride, playing what may have been a superior version of the normally auto-tuned and elaborate pop single (a similar rendition can be heard here). Finishing with “Portal”, Kirby had the audience swooning, and made a fan out of this first-time listener.
Andy Shauf and his band (“Bandy Shauf”, as one concert-goer proclaimed) took the stage shortly after and got straight to work, linking track after track with little room for dead air or uncomfortable shuffling in the seated venue. Beginning with “Wasted on You” (a tongue-in-cheek biblical allegory), Shauf played through the majority of Norm with little deviation from…the norm (sorry). Primarily backlit with little in the way of theatrics or spectacle, aside from some foliage and ferns adorning the microphone stands, the set was soft and tender and well-suited for the Royal Theatre.
Shauf has been especially prolific in the last few years, releasing The Neon Skyline and Wilds in 2020 and 2021 respectively. While the play-through of Norm was blemish-free and thoroughly enjoyable (albeit a bit echoey from Andy’s vocals), the concert picked up whenever Shauf dug into the back catalogue and the band was able to add their finishing flourishes. Highlights included “Quite Like You” and “To You” from The Party, and stepping up the evening’s tempo with “Neon Skyline” and “Thirteen Hours”.
Delicate as his music is—and what is likely the attraction for most listeners—any dissonant moments (like the brief, psychedelic interruptions on “Daylight Dreaming”) leave this reviewer wanting Shauf to fully embrace and explore that aspect of his range. Perhaps that will come through with the next Foxwarren release. That being said, Shauf is a master storyteller, turning something as banal as getting stoned and forgetting to lock your door on the way to the “Halloween Store” into a tale of love and wanting (or perhaps obsession).
Ending with “Don’t Let It Get To You” and “All of My Love”, Shauf and company exited stage left to a standing ovation, only to return to perform “The Magician” from The Party. Already 7-years-old, the song holds the same (if not greater) significance to the audience. Shauf’s humility and appreciation for the fans and music may be part of the reason why he has attracted such a dedicated following. If there is any indication from last night’s sold out show, Andy Shauf will remain Canada’s indie darling for many years to come.